By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(May 2, 2019) Worcester Technical High School students affiliated with Skills USA have a lot to celebrate.
Members took home awards from a state-level competition and a national level Chapter of Excellence.
“It was just a wonderful feeling for everyone involved,” said Principal Tom Zimmer.
Skills USA works with “students, teachers and industry … to ensure America has a skilled workforce,” according to the organization’s website.
Rick Stephens, a welding teacher and the school’s lead Skills USA advisor for Worcester Technical High School said they’ve won the state level for the past three years, and it’s the third year Worcester County [has] been awarded [a] gold standard for [the] national level” for the Chapter of Excellence.
The Eastern Shore also represented for Skills USA as Worcester and Dorchester were the only counties earned the national goal level.
Zimmer also praised Stephens’ efforts.
“He’s not only well known in the state of Maryland, he’s well known nationally through the Skills [USA] program, and any time you have a leader of that caliber who has done it for decades, it is a real bonus to our school and to the students,”
While Stephens was overjoyed by the recognition, he clarified it’s a team effort.
“It’s very exciting obviously and the one big thing is that it’s the whole school,” Stephens said. “It takes everybody here to be involved with it all the instructors are [advisors] for their kids.”
Stephens has been teaching for 35 years and also serves on the Skills USA Maryland State board of Directors for Skills USA. He said the school has been affiliated with the program for 38 years, serving as an institution within their own intuition.
He added the Chapter of Excellence program is sponsored by Skills USA, and there is an application process that
Stephens said the contest took place from April 12-14 in Baltimore. He added Worcester Technical High School brought 100 students to compete in 38 different events ranging from extemporaneous speaking to welding.
Stephens added there were 1,200 students competing in Maryland, and 60 Worcester Technical High School students that placed in the top three in the state.
Zimmer said these types of competitions help students in vocational training gain practical experience because “there are jobs to be had where students don’t necessarily have to go to college and can avoid massive amounts of college student loan debt and come out on their feet with a good job pretty quickly in their young life and be very successful.”
For Stephens, working with Skills USA is a win-win for students.
“Well one of the good things about competing is that they can put it on a resume … and colleges do recognize this what Skills USA is because Skills USA is in post-secondary schools compete in,” Stephens said. “It really gives them a leg up, and also the kids that are going to go right out of school and into the trade obviously if they’ve competed in skills USA that’s gonna be a great talking point for them when they go to get hired.”
What’s next for the Skills USA participants? 30 students from Worcester Technical High School, and staff will head to Kentucky to compete at the national level from June 23-29.
Stephens said they are currently working on fundraising for the approximate $58,000 expense.
There are two events on Saturday that people can participate in:
The Worcester Tech 5K run starts at 10 a.m. at the school on 6290 Worcester Highway in Newark. Registration opens at 9 a.m. and is happening rain or shine, according to event organizers. It costs $10 for students, $30 for adults and $20 per person for groups with five or more participants.
Runners can also preregister at wths.booktix.com/pal/4/cc84edf42fe7cd22
In addition to the 5K, Worcester Technical High School will be holding a Spring Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be food, a car show, games and prizes, an FFA flower sale, as well as a yard sale and vendors.
For more information, visit worcestertechhs.com.
Anyone interested in donating can call Stephens or Skills USA advisor Crystal Bunting at 410-632-5050.